Every year on Good Friday, more than 3,200 people gather at the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in the San Gabriel mountains to pray the Stations of the Cross together. This pilgrimage is an annual event, with people from all over the southern California region attending.
As this was my first full year working at Mater Dolorosa, this was my first experience. The joy of being with and praying with so many who are dedicated to this prayer form is indeed inspiring. It is also interesting to see the differences in traditions each parish or national group brings to the day. By the evening, we had nearly all the stations at the center decorated with flowers of a wide variety.
It is surprising how much variety there is when praying the Stations of the Cross. The narrative can be very traditional in nature, or more modern and accessible.
Here is an excerpt from one of the many narratives we use at Mater Dolorosa for the Stations. This one written by the well-known theologian Dr. Michael Downey.
Leader: Before setting out on the Way of the Cross, let us gaze on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he surrenders to the Father’s will. (Pause)
Leader: In this lonely hour while others sleep, you come face to face with the Father in the deepest recesses of your heart at prayer. You ask the Father to relieve you of the horror that lies ahead, but in an act of surrender you lift your hands in prayer and give yourself over to the Father’s will.
This is a moment of anguish and soul-searing struggle. But it is also a moment of luminous glory. Because it is here that you glorify the Father by the act of complete self-surrender. And begin the Way of the Cross that leads to Calvary.
We often relive the journeys of the life of Christ and the Holy Family with the various mysteries of the rosary, bringing us into imaginative prayer as we place ourselves alongside them in their times of joy and sorrow.
This oscillation of joy and sorrow helps us in our faith in a very special way. While is not exclusively Catholic, I do feel we enter into the sorrow alongside Christ and others through the difficult times and then feel the joy of His presence to help us through these moments. I hate to admit it, but sometimes the difficult times end up being some of the greatest benefits in deepening our faith. Perhaps it is because then we need God the most, and are less willing to turn away because we want His love and mercy to get through the hard times.
As we pass through Divine Mercy Sunday, we can always return to God’s Divine Mercy. Perhaps this week we can return to some times in our lives when we received this mercy. By doing so we can perhaps see God’s presence inside ourselves?
The weaver does the work well.
Interconnecting colors, age and location,
Into a tapestry called “Together”
Only by seeing our part,
Touching those near us,
And seeing the others in the distant fabric,
A world away,
Can we feel our innermost.
The love imparted to us by the divine,
As today, we turn our will and freedom in recognition of the gift.
So, the divine in me is palpable,
As the intention of creation, incarnation and salvation merge in a moment of recognition,
One I will hold forever.
The divine presence in me.